Photo by Karen Warren/Chronicle
By far, the fan favorite of the 2004 Greeneville Astros was J.R. Towles. Mitch Einertson put up the big numbers but he was shy and aloof. Towles was humble, kind and polite. He said sir & ma'am, smiled alot and signed plenty of autographs. The fact that he added Phil. 4:13 after every signature endeared him to the good church going folks of Greeneville. Everyone liked him but it was clear, he wasn't the best player on the team. He was a good catcher and a neat kid.
Then next season, on the way up to Tri Cities to play for the ValleyCats, he gets a phone call. That phone call that changed his destination to Lexington. I have to say this for J.R., he took advantage of that opprotunity. He hit over .300 in 05 and 06 in Lexington. In 07, he got off to a rough start in Salem. Then opprotunity knocked again. He was sent to fill in at Corpus Christi for a brief time and ended up getting promoted to Round Rock and later in the year to Houston. Once in Houston, he again took advantage of the opprotunity, hitting .375 in 14 games and knocking in a record 8 runs in one game. What a magical season!
The last three years have been spent, battling injury and expectations from his magical run in 2007. Last year, he started the season in Houston and struggled. He was sent down all the way to AA where he played in just a few games prior to being injured and missing the rest of the season.
So what does this year hold? Since my crystal ball is on the fritz, I can't say for sure. However, I will give a few possibilities.
1. Towles is traded. This would be the best case scenario for the Astros & J.R. . The Astros are committed to Jason Castro as their #1 catcher. Humberto Quintero is a solid veteran back up. That makes Towles expendable. With other solid catching prospects coming up the system, maybe he could be traded for a less deep position player to help out the system depth. He is young enough and talented enough to be beneficial to another organization who is not deep in catching.
2. Towles starts in AAA. This is most likely. The same factors that make option 1 attractive, make option 2 likely. He would be a call up should Castro or Q become injured.
3. Towles has another break out spring and makes the roster. This is highly unlikely. But remember this is the Phil. 4:13 kid. If this happens, there will be a bunch of happy fans in Greeneville.